The locals call us "The Bready." We happily employ 12 percent of Haplin's residents, and we are proud to make Haplin a place where the air is alive with the aroma of fresh baking bread, all the live-long day! Enjoy! (Our Daily, Baking and Confectionary, Haplin, MN)
Zombos Says: Very Good
Measure two fingers of sinister mystery from American Gothic, add a dash of Stephen Kingish small-town-hiding-dark-secrets, spice with serial murderer and missing people, stir in an all too quiet and aloof visitor, Merritt Grieves (Sam Neill), top off with a more recent visitor who's way too anxious to ascend the staircase leading to the dark third floor of the boarding house she's staying at, and finally dabble assorted bitters of quirky townsfolk and a sheriff and his son in over their heads. Shake it all violently, garnish liberally with tidbits of plot, then knock back this new series on ABC called Happy Town: it's quite a rush given the promise shown in this first episode, In This Home on Ice.
The home in question is Haplin, Minnesota, where the air is constantly filled with the smell of fresh-baked bread from the huge bakery in the middle of town. This idyllic slice of American pie was soured by a serial killer dubbed the Magic Man who, after a few years hiatus, appears to be back to terrorize the small town. The opening minutes provide the slice of horror the series is aiming for with a creative and grisly use of a chisel. Sam Neill as the self-assured and mysterious Merritt Grieves provides the rest. He's quite satisfied opening up his cinema memorabilia store of needful things, The House of Ushers, even if Haplin's residents are not all that into movies; especially the kind he's enamored by, like the seldom seen The Blue Door. What influence it holds over him and its significance will no doubt be expanded on in later episodes. What influence he holds over the town's sheriff is made evident in the confrontation at Big Dave's Pizza Barn. Sheriff Conroy (M. C. Gainey) apparently warned him to leave town a few times already, but there Grieves sits, enjoying his dinner, unperturbed. When Grieves smirks at the sheriff you know it does not bode well. Neill has that smirk and squint of the eyes down pat. What happens to the sheriff after that leads us into the second episode with a vivid image of handy dismemberment.
Then there's the odd boarders at the sprawling Edwardian boarding house. They're all tightly-wound women who, beguiled by Grieves devilish charm, gush over him vying for his attention. Except for the young woman (Lauren German) recently arrived in town. She's interested in Grieves, but is not gushing over him. She's also determined to ascend those third floor stairs even after she's been sternly warned not to by the landlady. Like Grieves, there's unknown purpose guiding her.
There is a lot going on in this first episode. It's brimming with intrigue, a returning horror that threatens to envelope the town again, and enough dangling plot-participles to keep fans of the grotesque and arabesque watching if this momentum is sustained in subsequent episodes. I'm glad to see American Gothic-styled terror return to the small screen. It's been absent too long.